£1m scheme to give working-class people power over grant decisions

Starting in October, the scheme will involve the consultancy Ten Years' Time and the graduate programme Charity Works and will be funded partly by the Big Lottery Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

A £1m project to bring more people from working-class backgrounds into decision-making roles at trusts and foundations will be launched in October.

The scheme will be run by 2027, a coalition involving the philanthropy consultancy Ten Years’ Time and the graduate programme Charity Works, plus Ruth Ibegbuna, founder of the youth charity Reclaim, and Baljeet Sandhu, a human rights lawyer.

The scheme will be funded by a £500,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund, a £150,000 donation from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and contributions from the participating trusts and foundations.

Earlier this month, research released by Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness showed that foundation trustees were 99 per cent white and more than two-thirds male, and that 58 per cent were over 64 and 74 per cent earned above the median income.

The new project aims to bring more community expertise into funding bodies by supporting a 12-month placement programme to recruit and train front-line workers from working class backgrounds to work in decision-making roles at trusts and foundations.

It has recruited its first cohort of 12 workers and has allocated most of them to trusts and foundations, although organisations are still signing up, and placements will begin in October.

It aims to recruit a total of 150 trainees over the next 10 years.

Joe Ferns, UK funding director at the BLF, said: "People within a community should be at the heart of every decision affecting that community, and this is why it is so important to bring greater diversity to the fore."

Caroline Mason, chief executive of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, said: "As a foundation, we want the work of the organisations we fund to be ‘done with, not done to’ the communities they support, so we need ask the same of ourselves. As well as funding this programme, we will be hosting two placements and can’t wait for them to start."

Sandhu said the project was not about helping people from working-class communities to improve their CVs, but about helping trusts and foundations improve their decision-making through the inclusion of diverse perspectives.

"Despite there being many lived-experience leaders working across our communities, as a whole our social sector fails to equitably and meaningfully value lived expertise in our work – expertise earned from first-hand experience of social issues or injustices and activated through work embedded in communities," she said.

"Instead, people are too often hired through well-established networks far removed from the communities they serve."

The 2027 coalition will also support boards to improve their approach to expertise, diversity and inclusion, and plans to launch a campaign asking foundations to commit to ensuring at least 40 per cent of their trustees identify as from the communities they most exist to serve by 2027.

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